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5 Ways To Get Close To Canada’s Indigenous History

Indigenous activist and avid traveller Sarain Fox has led our Prime Minister on a tour of Shoal Lake 40, a community on the border between Manitoba and Ontario that has been without clean drinking water for two decades. She’s an ambassador for the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School in Toronto where the art of making moccasins and mukluks is celebrated and preserved. Her latest mission involved a trek through Australia for TreadRight’s First People Project, connecting with Aboriginal communities where, in Fox’s own words, TreadRight is “creating a program where local artisans and cultural practitioners can share their own stories and arts, while creating vital economic freedom with the sale of the traditional pieces.”

We talked to Fox about the ways that Canadians can connect with Indigenous cultures in their own country—both while they travel from province to province and in their own home towns.

 

Follow the pow wow trail through New Brunswick

Pow wows are a pretty easy way to connect with Indigenous people. They are a modern celebration of dance, drum and song. When our ceremonies were made illegal, pow wows became a stand-in for practicing our cultures. Since they happen in the summer, the best part is getting out into the sun together for food, great competitions, and even shopping. There is no single word to describe what a pow wow is. You just have to experience it yourself and there is something for everyone, regardless if you’re Indigenous or settler. What better way than to head to the Maritimes and follow the pow wow trail through New Brunswick? Home to the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy) nations, the province has thousands of years of Indigenous history and tradition. The pow wow trail is essentially a group of individual pow wows taking place all through the summer where you’ll be able to celebrate life through song and dance, ceremonies, and displays of hospitality and unity. The pow wow season starts mid-June and lasts through to mid-September, from Bathurst in the north to Fundy National Park in the south.

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#StMarysFirstNation #Powwow

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Visit The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School in Toronto

I am extremely proud to be the ambassador of the school. Originally launched as a pop-up class by Manitobah Mukluks, the Indigenous-owned Canadian footwear company, the program began as a way for Indigenous youth to learn the art of mukluk and moccasin making from elders in the community. It was a way for Manitobah Mukluks to pass on knowledge so that the tradition that we all grew up learning (I grew up smelling tanned leather hides and beading at the kitchen with my family) is kept alive so that they can inspire the next generation of Indigenous artists. This program has since gone national thanks to our partners, the Bata Shoe Museum where the class is held, and The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit helping to make travel matter by safeguarding the people, planet and wildlife for generations to come. The TreadRight Foundation in particular has supported the school from the start by providing an annual grant that now covers tuition for all Indigenous students, the two Indigenous artisans who teach the classes and purchasing of the materials. We host classes every Sunday that teach much more than how to make a pair of moccasins or mukluks – though, that’s pretty cool in itself! Bead by bead, stitch by stitch, students are reconnecting with thousands of years of tradition.

 

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Some amazing work is happening at the @batashoemuseum x Manitobah Storyboot School 🌸!!

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Tour Saskatoon’s  Wanuskewin Heritage Park

Six thousand years ago, Wanuskewin (which translates to “gathering place”) echoed with the thundering hooves of bison and the voices of Indigenous peoples from across the Northern Plains who came here to hunt, collect food and medicinal plants, and escape that prairie wind. The site, which holds spiritual significance to local First Nations, is also home to an ancient medicine wheel. 6,000 years later and only 15 minutes from downtown Saskatoon, you can now relive the stories of the original people who called this home and walk in their footsteps to understand why this site was a place of worship and celebration, of renewal with the natural world and of a deep spirituality. I love visiting this site, not just because of its history and significance, but also for its medicine walks, trails, art and dance performances, and of course, bison stew!

 

Check out Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler

Come to Whistler for mountain biking (in the summer) and skiing (in the winter) but stay for the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. It is one of my favourite places to visit when I’m out west, not just because it’s the first of its kind in Canada, but because it epitomizes the concept of ‘nation to nation.’ The Sk̲wxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation, Coast Salish) and Líl̓wat7ul (Lil’wat Nation, Interior Salish) Nations have coexisted respectfully as neighbours since the beginning of time. Both cultures are grounded in rich, ancient traditions. In 2001 both nations signed an historic Protocol Agreement which formalized their mutual relationship in matters of cultural and economic development, and co-management of shared territory. It’s the only agreement of its kind in Canada and the centre perfectly embodies the spirit of partnership between two unique Nations who wish to preserve, grow and share their traditional cultures with the world. The building itself is stunning, designed to channel the form of a Squamish Longhouse and Lil’wat Istken (earthen dwelling). Inside, visitors will get to learn more about the two nations, take a guided forest walk, and participate in live demonstrations of weaving, carving, cedar prepping, and other cultural regenerative activities. My favourite is the centre’s hourly guided tour which includes a traditional welcome song and cedar-rope bracelet making session. But what I love most is that the centre creates meaningful employment opportunities for members of both nations.

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Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but as a repository for each person's unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory. But despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate. With this in mind, the @UnitedNations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) in order to raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people who speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world's rich cultural diversity. For more information visit https://en.iyil2019.org/ #SLCCWhistler . . . . . . . . #BCMuseums #IndigenousBC #IndigenousCanada #Indigenous #FirstNations #SuperCulturalBC #GoWhistler #ExploreCanada #CulturalCentre #Culture #History #CultureSavesLives #Language #globalgoals #servingforpeace #unitednations

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Stay in a wilderness adventure lodge in Nunavut

Canada’s youngest territory, Nunavut (the Inuktitut word for “our land”) is home to the Inuit who settled on the land over 4,000 years ago. This beautiful land is an unspoiled natural paradise on Earth. Sure, you can come here specifically to experience the vivid, dancing hues of the Aurora Borealis, but you should try one of the wilderness adventure lodges to experience what daily life is like for the Inuit. Lodges are in remote locations — one is situated 80 km south of Resolute Bay near the Northwest Passage through Lancaster Sound, specifically chosen for a wide variety of outdoor activities in Instagram-worthy arctic environments. Don’t worry, you won’t be left all on your own. Each lodge comes with expert local guidance to teach you about the land. Depending on when you visit, you might arrive to the lodge by floatplane, boat, dog sled or snowmobile. Keep in mind that there are no formal roads to follow in most parts of Nunavut — just good routes! Once settled in, you can explore the surrounding wilderness area in kayaks or inflatable rafts, by mountain biking, hiking, or cruising across the rolling terrain on an ATV. You can also do day trips, guided by local experts, to witness muskoxen roaming the tundra valleys, see belugas swimming through the sound and — from a safe distance — watch polar bears wandering through the Cunningham River delta area.

 

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